After attending a Fundamentals Clinic, Diego was accepted into the Academy, and he threw himself into the program. “Right from the start, you realize the importance of the four core values: loyal, hardworking, ambitious and personable. These values are ingrained in everything the company does,” Diego says, and he thrived in the environment.
Clinton develops the clinicians´ skills as horsemen by having them train horses for the public through his Academy Horse Program. While some of the horses are colts that need started, most of the horses come with longstanding problems. “It´s easy to get on a horse that´s broke and make small corrections or to start a 2-year-old that´s a blank slate and has a willing disposition. When you start working with a horse that has never been exposed to any sort of training and has gotten away with bad habits for long periods of time, it really proves to you how important it is to have a solid training method. It also opens your mind up about how best to approach the situation, whether the horse´s behavior is due to fear or a lack of respect,” Diego says.
Training those types of horses, he adds, is how Clinton helps his students learn to develop feel. “The first concept about feel that Clinton wants you to understand is how much pressure you should put on a horse. He talks about that in the Fundamentals Series and in his philosophy book. While you´re in the Academy, you learn so much more about feel, as in how to feel a horse out or how to move forward in a training situation. You get so much experience at the ranch working with such a variety of horses that your feel just gets better and better,” Diego says.
There´s no doubt, he adds, that working with horses that have been sent to five or more trainers with no success and are brought to the ranch as a last resort is motivating. “There were some really tough cases, and it tests you and challenges you as a horseman,” Diego says. “I love that sort of challenge, and I love training horses and watching them progress.”
Even though a horse might appear to be a hopeless case when first arriving at the ranch, Diego learned to trust the Method. “If you follow the Method, you´ll get the results you´re looking for,” he affirms. There was a particularly challenging mare that brought this point home to the clinician. “I had a horse come in that was very untrustworthy—she had a bad habit of bucking. One day she´d be fine and do all of her lessons perfectly and we´d make great progress, and then the next day she´d blow up and it felt like I was back to square one with her. I struggled with that at first, but Clinton worked with me one-on-one and we went step-by-step through the Method. By the end of the training session, she was a different horse and became a very safe mount for her owner.”
Lesson days, where he was able to work with owners, rate as the best experience on the ranch for Diego. “By the end of the horse´s training, you´re proud of the progress you´ve made and you can´t wait to share the experience with the owner. To see their eyes light up when they´re watching their horse respond willingly is amazing and rewarding,” Diego says. “Results are what people want, and I´m lucky enough to have a career in which I can help people get those results.”
Diego appreciated the education he received at the ranch so much so that he decided to earn his professional level certification. “I took the opportunity to become an even better horseman and clinician, learning directly from Clinton,” he says.